Night Skies – Before and After…

In my last post, I shared pictures from my recent trip to Sedona, Arizona, for a Night Skies Photography Workshop.  When one drives over 700 miles (one way) for something like this, one often plans little side trips to make the trip more worthwhile.  This post is about the drive down and back.  I hope you enjoy my trip as much as I did!

I left home on a nice Sunday morning and drove to Boulder City, Nevada.  My goal was to get past Las Vegas and avoid the traffic on Monday morning.  I got up early on Monday and drove south on US 95 to an ‘oasis in the desert’ named Nelson, Nevada.  Situated about 21 miles from Boulder City (10 miles on US 95 and another 11 miles on SR 165) in the Eldorado Canyon, Nelson ( is the home of the notorious Techatticup Mine, where millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead were mined from about 1858 until 1945.  The town is now host to cactus, snakes, tourists, and photographers wanting to see life in those times.


A couple of the buildings and vehicles.


The water tower…not sure if it’s still functional.


This water truck under the water tower is definitely not functional, but the controlled decay makes for a fun picture.


Another of the wonderful photographic subjects around the town.


Colors and textures abound…with some very fun antiques.


This is not a very impressive subject – I would never try to sell this image. The process for making the image is worth discussing, however. Getting a single exposure that shows the shaded subjects inside the structure while viewing the sunlit mountains through the window is impossible. This image becomes possible by using a tripod to hold the camera in position and then making multiple images at different exposures, then combining the images in a high dynamic range (HDR) software. I recently saw a new technique that does not require HDR software. Using the underexposed image (for the mountains in the window), I made a copy of the mountains in the window and overlaid it onto the normal exposed image (covering the overexposed mountains) to create this image. Well, I did a little creative editing after the merge.  A fun technique and worth the time to explore!

After spending some time taking pictures in Nelson, I continued south on US 95 to Laughlin, Nevada, where I made a quick stop at the Big Bend of the Colorado River State Park and stamped my Nevada State Parks Passport.  Big Bend is at the southern tip of Nevada and I don’t expect to get back there anytime soon.  From there, I headed for Grand Canyon National Park.  I drove on I-40 to Williams, Arizona, and headed north on AZ Highway 64 to Mather Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.


A Grand Canyon panorama…


Another Grand Canyon panorama…note the tourists on the lookout on the left…


This is not a panorama, it is a single image cropped to near panorama proportions. I’ve talked about the ongoing ‘to pano or not to pano’ question before. Still a pretty shot!


I couldn’t resist including my ‘selfie’ from the Grand Canyon. It’s my new profile picture on Facebook, so many of you have seen it before. One of my friends told me it’s not a real selfie, but I disagree.

As I headed south from the Grand Canyon, I saw a band of Pronghorn Antelope hanging out by the side of the road.  I pulled over and snapped a few pictures.


I processed this image in warm tones just for fun!


I’m very familiar with Pronghorn, as they are very prolific in my home state of Wyoming. I was excited that these animals were so unconcerned about my presence. The Pronghorn back home don’t tolerate people and most of my images from home are Pronghorn butt as they run away.

I arrived in Sedona in the dark of late evening, so I didn’t see the landscape until the next morning.


I grabbed this picture with my cell phone on my way to breakfast. As you saw in my last blog, this doesn’t do Sedona justice in any way!

Since the Night Skies Workshop didn’t start until Tuesday afternoon, I made a quick trip to Clarkdale, Arizona, to visit the Tuzigoot National Monument.  Tuzigoot is an Anasazi ruin, and was definitely worth the trip.


From the ruins near the top, I made this panorama. I wish I had increased the height of the tripod to minimize the wall in the foreground.


I liked how the ruins in the foreground followed the lines of the mountains in the background. This image was taken in the morning with the wall in shadow. I might have had better light in the afternoon, but then I would have lost the helpful impact from the shadows.


This is the Visitor’s Center. It’s a beautiful structure and fits the environment well.


This is the view from the very top of the ruins, looking to the southeast and down the mountain. Can you imagine living in this community, climbing ladders to reach your living space?

When the workshop was over mid-morning on Wednesday, I began my trip home.  I had been fighting a cold or some type of crud from the time I left home, so my goal of getting to Las Vegas was fairly modest – only 250 miles or so.  When I crossed the Tillman-O’Callahan Bridge into Nevada, I was feeling a little better and decided to drive up the west side of Lake Mead.  I stopped in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Visitor Center, stamped my National Parks Passport, and headed north towards Overton, Nevada.  I made a couple stops on the way to take some pictures, but the water level in Lake Mead is so low that I didn’t get near the water.


You can see the ‘bathtub ring’ in this panorama of Lake Mead. I saw a few wild horses in the desert, but did not see any Desert Bighorns (darn it all).

When I exited Lake Mead’s north entrance, I came on the Valley of Fire State Park East Entrance.  The sun was going down, but I paid my entry fee, stamped my State Parks Passport, and ventured into the Park.  The light was fading and my sinuses were regretting my decision to make this side trip, but I found some pretty rocks and stopped for a couple sets of pictures.


The setting sun was behind me as I shot this panorama. I love the sky behind these rocks.


I cranked the tripod head 180 degrees and shot into the sunset. Yes, it’s a very over-processed image, and I won’t get into the details of what I did. Pretty sunset, and not a bad foreground.

I got a good night’s rest that night, and made it home safe and sound.  The trip was fast (5 days) and I put about 1,800 miles on my Expedition.  I picked up 3 stamps in my National Parks Passport, 2 stamps in my State Parks Passport and, of course, lots of images of Nevada and Arizona.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been in the field a couple times checking out the local Raptor scene.  The Bald Eagles are starting to return to the area.  I leave you with this image from Diamond Valley, south of the Carson Valley just over the California line, from a couple days ago.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Merry Christmas!